Packers Defense Limits Big Plays and Continues to Improve
By Dan Dahlke
Davon House celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Cleveland Browns. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
Going into week seven’s matchup against the Cleveland Browns, the Green Bay Packers defense had given up 27 plays over 20 yards (23 passing, 4 rushing). A number defensive coordinator Dom Capers wanted to see steadily decrease as the season progressed.
The Green Bay’s young defense did just that and took a huge step forward on Sunday. Not only did they hold the Browns offense to just 216 total yards, 3.2 yards per play average, and Brandon Weeden to a 40 percent completion percentage, they also didn’t allow a single play over 20 yards in the game. This is an impressive feat against any NFL team, especially for a Green Bay defense without key players, like Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, and Brad Jones. So what this came against an unimpressive Cleveland offense. I’ll still take it.
Davon House breaks up the pass intended for Josh Gordon. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph
The Browns longest pass all day was a 19-yard completion to Greg Little early in the first quarter. Sam Shields shadowed Josh Gordon for a majority of the game and limited the young ascending receiver to just two catches for 21 yards.
Davon House also had a few key pass breakups against Gordon in the game. One on 4th-and-15 early in the fourth quarter when the Browns offense was sitting on the Packers 31-yard line and looking to come within one score of Green Bay. House’s other pass breakup came late in the game, and on the play the young cornerback really showcased his strength as he swatted the pass out of Gordon’s hands in the end zone on a key 3rd-and-4.
Overall, House had perhaps his best game of his young career. He also recorded an interception on fourth down early in the first quarter.
Coming into Sunday’s game, Gordon was averaging over 100 yards receiving per contest, but the Packers secondary made the young playmaker a non-factor on Sunday. This marks the second week in a row the Packers secondary, led by Shields, have prevented the opposing team’s top receiver from impacting the game.
The Packers pass defense was able to prevent the explosive plays teams like the Ravens and Redskins were able to convert to make a late-game push on the Packers’ lead.
Last week, on a late-game drive, the Ravens were able to convert a 4th-and-21 with a 63-yard completion over the middle of the field. The next play, the Ravens scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Clark. Safety and dime back, Jerron McMillian, was the culprit on both plays, and consequently, McMillian only played one snap from scrimmage against the Browns.
Instead, Green Bay decided to go with rookie corner Micah Hyde as their dime back and rotate Chris Banjo in at safety with M.D. Jennings. Both Banjo and Hyde have played much better in coverage than McMillian this year.
Willis McGahee tackled by Chris Banjo. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph
The Packers also prevented the Browns offense from getting any explosive runs. Even though Cleveland was able to get 83 yards on the ground against Green Bay, 20 of these yards came from scrambles from Weeden. In fact, the Browns longest run of the day was for 11 yards and it came on a Weeden scramble on a 3rd-and-18 in the second quarter that did very little to impact the game.
The Packers continue to boast one of the top run defenses in the the league. And with Jones, Matthews, and Perry out, young and unproven players like, Jamari Lattimore, Andy Mulumba, and Nate Palmer have had to step up.
Lattimore had a great game. He led the team in tackles with twelve, got his first career sack, and recorded a tackle for a loss. He’s done an outstanding job filling in for Jones at inside linebacker.
It’s young, ascending players like Lattimore and House that keep this defensive unit solid despite the injuries they’re dealing with at this point in the season.
I look forward to seeing how good this unit can be once they get Matthews, Perry, Jones, and Hayward back on the field.